The Ancient Library

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women divine the welfare or death of absent

men by means of needles threaded with cotton

wool and set afloat. As the wool gets wetted

the needles sink one after another, and the man

whose needle sinks first would be the dead one.1

The Holy Well at Little Conan, Cornwall,

shows plainly how this mode of divination

may arise out of the throwing of objects into

the holy well, and the fee to the priest is an

interesting feature. On Palm Sunday a cross

of palm is thrown into the well after a present

has been made to the priest. If it swam,

the thrower was to outlive the year; if it sank,

he would die.2 The principle of this ordeal

is seen in its simplest form in the Malay

diving ordeal. The oaths are written out, and

sealed in bamboo tubes. Two boys act as

proxies and dive into the water holding the

bamboos. The boy who has the false oath is

half drowned, and is obliged to come up to

the surface.3

not explicit; perhaps it was France. His reference is to Masse, L'Imposture et tromperie des diables, 32.

1 Hartland, op. cit. ii. p. 21. 2 Hunt, op. cit. p. 56.

3 Skeat, Malay Magic, pp. 542-544.

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